Once upon a time, in a past long since forgotten, there lived a people for whom the main reason to live ‘was for something outside this material world and life, some object that suffering and death could not touch.’ So says Tim Keller on page 9 of his book On Death. He continues a couple of pages on, ‘Modern culture, then, is the worst in history at preparing its members for the only inevitability—death.’
Can human beings accept that we are going to cease to exist forever, in a literal blink of an eye. Tim answers ‘No!’ ‘For the idea of death, and the fear of it haunts the human animal like nothing else.’
These are quotations from the book where Tim highlights our modern attitudes towards death and where he spells it out clearly in saying that ‘everything in this life is going to be taken away from us, except one thing: God’s love.’ And I really enjoyed this first chapter because of the way it examined the culture we now live in and its refusal to consider death or even talk about it. Tim opens the can, and let’s us see the folly of that attitude and the hope that can alone by found in the true God made known in Jesus.
He continues in the next chapter to talk about ‘not grieving like those without hope’. In this chapter he does say that Christians can and must both grieve and be full with hope. And he warns us that grief can become bitterness. Regarding grieving he gives us wise advice, ‘We have a lot of crying to do.’
How many of us, at a funeral, or at the loss of someone have bottled it up, and refused to cry? And it’s not just about death that we do this—there are all sorts of felt ‘injustices’ and real injustices that ought to open our tear ducts and twist our hearts. Death is one of those.
But in Jesus there is hope. I like this phrase that Jesus ‘knew that the only way he could get Lazarus out of the tomb (who had died several days earlier) was if he put himself into it.’ ‘Indeed, if he (Jesus) is to guarantee resurrection for all who believe in him, he must put himself into the grave. On the cross that’s what he did.’
That’s the book! An introduction, two chapters and an Appendix. 128 pages in all which are quickly read as you can see in the picture.
This is an easy, but incisive read. The analysis of our current climate and the hope found in Jesus the Christ is made abundantly clear with some striking quotations. And the Appendix, a thing I’d normally ignore in a book is very helpful for in this Keller gives us a section on ‘If you are facing your own possible death’ and follows this up with a week of daily readings from the Bible with a brief meditation on each. This is followed up with ‘If you are facing the death of a loved one’, again with daily readings and meditations. These in themselves are a great reason to buy this book. Be informed, be encouraged and see afresh and more vividly the hope a person can have through faith in who Jesus is and what He has done for this, His world.